Michael Penix Jr., quarterback of the Washington Huskies, has put up some eye-catching numbers over the first three weeks of the college football season. Penix’s Huskies are ranked #8 in the latest AP Top 25, just three spots behind Caleb Williams and USC at #5. The performance of Penix these first few weeks begs the question, has Michael Penix Jr. passed Caleb Williams as the best college quarterback in 2023? Could Penix Jr. actually be the first quarterback selected in the 2024 NFL draft?
What do the numbers say about Michael Penix Jr. compared to Caleb Williams?
Now that Washington and USC have played the same number of games after USC had a bye this past weekend, it makes comparing Michael Penix Jr. and Caleb Williams statistically a lot easier. With three games played each, Penix Jr. and Williams both have 12 passing touchdowns, tied for second in college football to only Sam Hartman with 13. (Hartman has played four games for Notre Dame.) All three were part of my top 5 quarterbacks heading into week three of the college football season.
However, there is quite a disparity in passing yards. Michael Penix Jr. is far away as the college football leader in passing yards, ahead of players like Sam Hartman who has an extra game played, ahead of Shedeur Sanders who is garnering a lot of attention at Colorado, and ahead of Braydon Schager of Hawaii who has also played four games.
Michael Penix Jr. is leading the way with 1,332 passing yards in three games, that is an average of 444 passing yards per game! Where is Caleb Williams? All the way down at number 20 with 878 yards, an average of 293 passing yards per game.
Now touchdowns are more important and Caleb Williams is tied with Michael Penix Jr. in that aspect. Also, to be fair, Penix Jr. has attempted far more passes than Caleb Williams through the first three weeks. Additionally, Caleb Williams does still hold a pretty big lead for the highest quarterback rating, with Penix Jr. coming in at number four which could be explained in part by Penix Jr. having one interception and Williams not having thrown one yet.
What other aspects may make Michael Penix Jr. the best quarterback in college football?
Michael Penix Jr. just put up 473 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State this past weekend on 27-of-35 attempts (77.1 percent), the game took place in East Lansing. Now, Michigan State does have a lot going on behind the scenes but beating a respected football team from the Big 10 41-7 is worth mentioning.
I did point out the comparison between Michael Penix Jr. and Caleb Williams’s passing statistics, but what about running? Which of these two is the better dual-threat quarterback? Caleb Williams has 12 rushing attempts for 61 yards, just over five yards per carry. Michael Penix Jr. has just four rushes for nine yards. So while Williams doesn’t offer a ton of rushing upside, he is still the better runner compared to Penix Jr.
What about the eye test? Caleb Williams has spent the last two seasons passing the eye test at USC, throwing tons of touchdowns and changing arm angles impressively to complete passes, but what about Michael Penix Jr.? Is he and the Washington Huskies for real?
Against Michigan State, Penix Jr. completed some very impressive deep passes, something that will certainly draw the attention of general managers at the next level to show he can stretch the field against the opposing defense. I will be fair and say there was some luck involved with Penix as he threw a pass that was deflected by Michigan State and still found its way into the hands of his receiver who scampered in for a touchdown.
Michael Penix Jr. did show some arm angle changes for some touchdowns but the most impressive part of his game against Michigan State was the sheer amount of deep balls that Penix Jr. was able to complete to multiple receivers.
So is Michael Penix Jr. the best quarterback in college football? Not quite yet, but the gap between him and Caleb Williams, is getting smaller.